Daytripper: Take a Trip to Petaluma

Make a weekend getaway out of visiting the scenic town
By: Sena Christian, Staff Reporter
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Know and Go:

Petaluma’s salute to “American Graffiti”

What: Classic car show and cruise to celebrate film

When: Thursday, May 16, to Saturday, May 18

Where: Historic downtown, Petaluma Boulevard

Cost:  Free



Sonoma-Marin Fair

What: Carnival rides, exhibits, livestock show, concerts, “World’s Ugliest Dog” contest

When:  Wednesday, June 19, through Sunday, June 23

Where: Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds, 175 Fairgrounds Drive, Petaluma

Cost: $15 adult, $10 child/senior



I remember one summer day as a child, back when VHS tapes were still on entertainment stands, my dad spent several hours editing and re-cording scenes from the classic 1973 George Lucas movie, “American Graffiti.”

My dad, a U.S. history teacher, was compiling scenes from various movies for a film on youth culture to show his students. Watching only those few minutes of “American Graffiti” — over and over again — has stuck with me through the years.

Imagine my delight when I learned that several memorable scenes from the movie were filmed in the city of Petaluma, which I visited for a weekend getaway earlier this year. It was an exciting revelation, although one I had following my trip, as I researched this article. In fact, I didn’t do a single piece of research before my fiancé and I left for our adventure.

Thankfully, Petaluma isn’t a destination you need to re-search before a visit. That’s because the city of 58,000 residents in Sonoma County has so much to do and see in its historic downtown alone, all you need to know is how to get there. Shoot, you don’t even have to leave Petaluma Boulevard, if you really want to be lazy.

After checking in at the Metro Hotel & Café, a quaint, remodeled Victorian house within walking distance of downtown, we headed to the historic district for several hours of browsing through antique shops.

Our most fascinating find was Military Antiques and Museum on Petaluma Boulevard. This place is easy to miss, but an absolute must-see, as it has mounds and mounds of old military paraphernalia.

We walked back in the direction of the Metro Hotel for dinner next door at SEA Thai Bistro, which serves a delicious vegetarian yellow curry with tofu.

So, that was my trip.

Then, I bought an overnight stay at the Metro Hotel & Café for my parents and told my mom to help me finish up this review.

“We started out well-equipped with my latest high- tech navigation tools, got lost anyway and your dad had to resort to the old-fashioned way — stop and ask for directions,” my mom said.

My mom, herself a seller of antiques, and my dad, her “silent partner,” immediately hit up the downtown antique shops, searching for treasures to resell. The shops were too upscale, but they enjoyed coveting a selection of Tiffany lamps, priced $9,000 to $17,000.

They next spotted an old U.S. Post Office building now being used as a fitness center.

“Wait, what, I didn’t notice that,” I said, as my mom relayed her trip.

“Oh, come on, girl!” my mom admonished. “You’ve got to open your eyes when you go to these places!”

Then my parents — musicians and hippies — happened upon Tall Toad Music Store, a shop with scores of guitars and ukuleles hanging from the rafters. The business also has a large collection of music books.

“In fact, we were thrilled when we found an Eric Clapton songbook with music we had been searching for,” my mom said.

Famished, they headed over to the Theatre District for lunch at Tres Hombres, each selecting the half turkey sandwich with fries, sprinkled with feta cheese and parsley, which my dad — who likes food as plain as possible — promptly scraped off.

Afterward, they came across Thrifty Hippy on Petaluma Boulevard.

“This shop was more our style with knickknacks, racks of vintage clothing, jewelry and a fair collection of vinyl records,” my mom said.

They appreciated the shop’s relaxed vibe and the room where parents can pick out a few children’s items for free. Then it was back to the Metro Hotel for a relaxing evening.

“The Metro Hotel can be de-scribed as a cross between shabby chic and just plain old shabby. However, we had a charming room with a private patio,” my mom said. “The café is not really a working one, more of a do-it-yourself type. But they do provide a list of restaurants.”